Stuffed Artichokes are another of my very first remembrances of Italian food. We are of Sicilian ancestry and Artichokes (Carciofi) along with Eggplant (Melanzane) are a very prominent part of the Sicilian Table. And as far as Italian-Americans go, when it comes to Artichokes and their preparation, stuffing them was the preferred way to go. Yes, every now and them we might have a Artichoke Frittata, or Pasta con Carciofi, but 98% of the time, when Italian-Americans get Artichokes at the market, you’re going to get them stuffed. There’s a reason for that, it’s the tastiest and most whimsical way to go. Yes whimsical, or so I always thought so, especially as a young boy, whenever my mom made them, I’d get quite excited, there’s nothing quite like a Stuffed Artichoke. All my life I’ve always viewed them as a very special treat. Stuffed with breadcrumbs that are flavored with garlic, oregano, parsley, and grated Pecorino or Parmigiano, yes these crazy looking vegetable are always a special treat, for eating a stuffed artichoke is unlike eating anything else. When making a stuffed artichoke you have to cut the spikey tips on the end of the leaves, and remove the center choke that you fill them with the tasty a breadcrumb stuffing, which also goes in-between the leaves. You then cook them with garlic and olive oil and a bit of water until done, and then the fun really begins, eating it.
Eating your Stuffed Artichoke is a great adventure, and there’s nothing quite like it in the whole wide culinary world. These baby’s look like some sort of Medieval Weapon or something, spirally with layers and layers of thorny tips. And now you’re going to dig into it. You have your Artichoke before, all hot and steamy and stuffed with that tasty breadcrumb filling in the middle, stuffed and overflowing between the leaves. You pull off you first leave, that’s cooked tender and juicy and has a bit of the stuffing upon its surface. You put the artichoke leave in-between you upper and lower teeth and the bite down onto the leave. Then you must pull the leave from back to front, all the time biting down on the leave and this way you will scrape that little bit of artichoke meat on the leaf, along with the breadcrumbs into your mouth for that little savory treat of one leaf of your stuffed artichoke. You will continue the process of eating the leaves one at a time until they are all gone. Well, you don’t actually eat the whole leaf, but you are scraping off that little bit of the edible flesh of each leaf, and breadcrumbs one-by one until they are all gone. That was quite fun and tasty to boot, and now your are left with the special prize of the Heart of the Artichoke, and any breadcrumb stuffing that is left. There’s some braising liquid as well. You’re in for the last special treat of your prized Artichoke and yes it is oh so very good. Better than good, it fabulous. This is the story of Stuffed Artichokes and the memories of eating them. Have you any? If not, then you should do so soon, and you’re in for a special treat.
A Stuffed Artichokes is a special treat Italian have been eating for years. Italian immigrants to American have been eating them for more than one hundred years now. They are one of our most prized items and are especially beloved in Italian-American enclaves all over the country. We love them in New York, New Jersey, Boston, and Baltimore, but no more so than in the great southern city of New Orleans, Louisiana where the popularity of the Stuffed Artichoke is at its zenith. Why? Well, there are no Italians who love and eat Stuffed Artichokes more than the Sicilians. The Stuffed Artichoke is mostly of the south of Italy, around Naples and Puglia, but at its strongest in the great region of Sicily, where artichokes were most likely imported into Sicily by the Arabs and later spread through other parts of Italy.
Yes, if you go down to New Orleans you’ll see Stuffed Artichokes all over the place. They are a popular deli item, especially if the owners are Italian-Americans you might see a tray of Stuffed Artichoke at the counter, cooked and ready to go. They are so popular in New Orleans that they have spread to the whole populous, becoming favorites of not just the Italians, but all other ethnic peoples of the great city of New Orleans. Artichoke, stuffed, they’re a special indulgence. If you’ve had them you know why. It’s time to indulge in one of your own.
Excerpted from Daniel Bellino’s newest forthcoming cookbook ; Mangia Italiano
4 large, full-size artichokes
1 lemon, halved
1 3⁄4 cups dried breadcrumbs
1 cup grated pecorino
1⁄3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Using a serrated knife, cut off artichoke stems to create a flat bottom. Cut top quarter off artichokes, pull off tough outermost leaves, and trim tips of leaves with kitchen shears.
Fill a large pot with water and 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to the boil. Put artichokes in the pot. Once the water comes to the boil, cook the artichokes in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove artichokes from water and set aside.
Open artichoke leaves with your thumbs to make room for stuffing; set aside.
Heat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine garlic, breadcrumbs, 3⁄4 cup pecorino, parsley, salt, pepper, half the olive oil, and 6 tablespoons of water.
Take each artichoke and spread leaves apart in order to fill with breadcrumb stuffing. Working with one artichoke at a time over bowl, sprinkle one-quarter of breadcrumb mixture over each artichoke and work it in between leaves.
Once all the artichokes are filled with the bread stuffing, transfer the stuffed artichoke to a shallow baking dish. Drizzle each artichoke with 1-tablespoon oil. Pour in boiling water to a depth of 1″ .. Cover pan and artichokes with foil.
Bake Artichokes until a knife easily slides into the base of an artichoke, about 35- 40 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle tops with remaining cheese. Turn heat up to 400 degrees and bake for 8 minutes more.